Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, Acting Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has said that the two Lagos seaports located in Lekki and Tin Can Island were operating “far beyond their installed capacities”.
“What it simply means is that if they were built to handle 500,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), for instance, probably they are now handling about 700, 000 TEUs,” he told newsmen on Sunday in Lagos.
He said that the situation had led to massive congestion worsened by the fact that the city had caught up with the ports.
“There is no space to expand the ports. What we need to do is to improve on the activities in the ports, in terms of efficiency.
“In 2006, when NPA concessioned the terminals, there was a Development Plan between the NPA and the terminal operators and that development plan included both physical development and the deployment of equipment.
“The terminal operators have met those agreements and everything has evolved, but there is need for bigger and more efficient equipment, better Information Technology IT systems, and so on.
“We have seen an improvement in terms of efficiency; there is increase in efficiency. But there is room for more. We have observed system downtime in one or two of the terminals, especially the APM Terminals, which is one of the terminals.
Whenever APM Terminal system is down, it causes a lot of backlog in terms of traffic.
“What we have done is to sit down with the terminal operators and tell them that they need to improve on their operations; we have Monitoring and Regulatory Department in the NPA, which has an index that, on a monthly basis, we look at the operations and grade them.
“We also sit with them at the end of the quarter to discuss their performance; we examine where they have done well and where they are lagging behind.
“We have also emphasised the need for better synergy between what the terminal operators are doing and the shipping lines, because some of them also have affiliated shipping lines working with them.
“To improve the operations within the ports, we came up with a policy that established empty container holding bays and we mandated all shipping lines to ensure that they have a holding bay outside the port premises for their empties.
“This is to ensure that importers, when they take away their cargo from the port to offload at their business premises or warehouse, do not bring the empty container into the port.
Such containers should rather be taken into the holding bay.
Second, we mandated that for every vessel that comes into Nigeria, when it is sailing out, it must take away at least 80 per cent of the containers it brought in, either as empty or as export cargo, because Nigeria was already being turned into a dumping ground for empty containers.
“To a large extent, that has worked because those empty containers have been removed. But we are ensuring that such is being monitored and efficiency has increased,” he said.
He also spoke on the electronic call up system, also called ‘Eto’, the policy deployed to check congestion at the ports.
“I have paid a visit to the main truck park itself which is located at the Lilly Pond Terminal, Ijora to see what is happening. I went round and I went into the ports. The idea was for me to have first-hand understanding on what the problem is.
“I met with Truck Transit Park (TTP), the firm that deployed ‘Eto’ system platform on behalf of the NPA, and we analysed what has been happening from February to May.
“We observed lapses one of which was the non-deployment of the electronic call up system – the Information Technology IT system – that should have been in place in some locations in the satellite truck parks.
“We also looked at the non-deployment of physical infrastructure such as the bollards, the automated gates, and we gave them ultimatum to deploy the infrastructure or lose the contracts.
The essence of ‘Eto’ was actually to streamline the movement of cargo in and out of the ports, reduce human interference, and speed up the process of cargo delivery.
“As long as there is human interference, there would be delays, there would be extortion and so on. What we need to do is to work on the human interference, stealing of Eto tickets and so on.
“Very often, we have situations where a trucker is along the route and he has his Eto ticket and at the next bus stop, a security agent stops him to say let me see your Eto ticket and the Eto ticket number is 123456.
“The driver may probably be so many kilometres away; that number could be given to someone who could enter a certain building around Apapa and, probably in 15 to 20 minutes, get a plate number printed which could be used to get access into the port.
“Shortly after, the real owner of the number now shows up and his ticket has been used and that is why we have now requested that TTP should change this to QR code; when you have a QR code, we will be able to scan it and you go through,” he said. (NAN).